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A Christian Perspective of Healing: prayer

By Pastor William R. Cunningham
Sunday February 19, 2006

3 John 2 (NKJV) -- {2} Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

INTRODUCTION

We desire to be well, but we have no idea of how to go about it.  We are ignorant.  We listen to the advertisements that say, “This is good for you” and we purchase it and consume it for the sake of good health.  However, we forget that the world system isn’t configured, if you will for your benefit or well being.  We forget that the same person that says, “This is good for you” is the same person that is in it for the money and ultimately that’s all he wants, namely your dollars.  This means that he will say anything and we will believe it.  Here I am reminded of a Bible scripture.

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) -- {6} My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

We are destroyed because we are ignorant.  In particular Hosea is referring to our relationship with Almighty God.  However, our knowledge of God transcends all that we do.  If we don’t listen to God then we are going to experience the consequences of that rejection and accompanying ignorance.  We are so busy running the rat race so to speak that we have no idea of how to run, i.e., how to live.

We get sick sometimes because of our own ignorance.  We are ignorant because we do not seek.  We don’t seek because we don’t know to seek or more precisely, we’ve forgotten that we should seek.  We remain sick because we don’t know what to do to get well.

Let me give you an example from my personal experience.  I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) more than ten years ago.  At that time my blood pressure was simply elevated.  This was actually discovered in a medical study that I had participated in for many years at that time.  I remember meeting with my primary care doctor and his response was to put me on high blood pressure medication.  This worked.

However, I remember having serious stressful problems at the church I was attending and I eventually left that church.  My blood pressure dropped and my doctor asked me, “What did you do….get the stress out of your life?”  I said yes.  I left my church.  He took me off of the medication.  However, my blood pressure became elevated some time after that and I was back on the pills.  I really hated taking those pills.

My wife and I began a lifestyle change in regards to health several years ago and it has really helped, but my blood pressure remained high.  We found a doctor that was more familiar with alternative approaches to medications so that we could approach good health from a different perspective and so that I would hopefully get rid of the hypertension medication.  After all, my primary care doctor told me that he had never seen anyone get off of the high blood pressure medication.  He said that even he was on the medication.  This doctor didn’t quite work out so we were on the lookout for another alternative medicine doctor (naturopath) that I could meet.

In the mean time a new problem arose.  I was diagnosed with goiters in my thyroid.  So this is something else that I have to deal with.  However, I found a naturopath during all of this.  As a matter of fact, this Naturopath discovered the possible cause of my hypertension and possibly my thyroid issue.  The discovery also explained many other things that were going on with my body and mind.  What I liked about this doctor is that he wanted to know why my blood pressure was high.  That was the magic word to me, namely “why.”  No doctor asked that before.  All others simply treated the symptoms.  This doctor wanted to seek the cure.

Another thing that this doctor believes in is the spiritual aspects of healing.  This makes sense to me from a Christian perspective because we are more than just flesh and blood.  We are spirit, body, and soul.  Consider the following scripture.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NKJV) -- {23} Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3 John 2 (NKJV) -- {2} Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

We notice a couple of things here.

  1. There is an identification of the spirit, soul, and body.
  2. There is a distinction in the state of the soul (spirit).

The point that I would like to make is that we neglect our spiritual health, which does affect our physical health and well-being.  We are basically ignorant about health.  We are ignorant of the spiritual aspects of good health.

 

Spiritual Health and Healing

There is a concept called spiritual healing that you can find a plethora of information about.  Not all spiritual healing is Christian, but rather it is a general concept of healing from a spiritual perspective.  We are acquainted with healing and health from a purely physical perspective.  Our concepts of healing and health include such things as eating right and exercising.  The problem here is that we don’t know what to eat and therefore don’t really know what eating right is and we likewise don’t know what exercises are beneficial to good health.

I have been thinking about spiritual healing for many years.  The things that I was told by various ministers did not line up with what I saw and experienced.  One question that I have had for a long time is whether or not we can experience divine healing today or not.  However, I have come to believe that divine healing isn’t some magical act by God, but could be more based on relationship and obedience.

I must admit that I cannot say that I understand this concept completely.  However, I found a source of information on the World Wide Web that seems to be consistent with the Scripture in this regard and what I have actually seen and experienced.  So I would like to present to you the little knowledge that I have gained about spiritual healing.  This information comes primarily from www.holistic-online.com.  I am not saying that I believe everything that they present on their website as they are not strictly Christian.  However, there are certain principles that I do see as being consistent with the Christian faith on spiritual living.

Spirituality involves the recognition and acceptance of God beyond our own intelligence and with whom we can have a relationship.  God can provide an experience of inspiration, joy, security, peace of mind, and guidance that goes beyond what is possible in the absence of the conviction of our heavenly Father’s existence.

 

Spiritual Healing Defined

Spiritual healing is believed to be the channeling of healing energy from God to an individual to effect healing in that individual.  The channel is typically a person, but the source of that healing energy is God.  The latter is important to understand.  If someone lays hands on you to effect healing in you then you must realize that he or she did not heal you.  It was God that healed you through that person.

You should also realize that you do not need a healer to be healed and that healing is not effected every time.  Sometimes healing comes in another form such as empowering a person to cope with their ailment in peace.  In any case, it is possible to effect healing in ourselves through prayer.

Now I am not referring to any magical formulas in any way.  My point here is that we neglect the spiritual side of good health.  We neglect to hear from the Lord in regards to living a fulfilling and healthy Christian life.  We also neglect the spiritual side of things when we remain sick and must cope with it.  Spiritual healing then is a different approach to healing than what we are typically used to.

There is one more thing that I must say here.  Spiritual healing is not a formula in that if you do this then such and such will happen.  Also, God is not a passive energy glob where people draw from him as a circuit would draw energy from a battery.  For example, someone may lay hands on you according to Mark 11:18, but you may not recover.  The person laying hands on you (the healer) is a conduit for healing, but that doesn’t mean that the process is automatic.  If God is not healing then healing will not occur.  We don’t know why healing doesn’t always occur and some give various reasons.  We will discuss this later in this lesson.

 

Spiritual Living

The Bible has a lot to say about living spiritually.  This doesn’t mean that we live in such a way that we neglect or disregard the flesh (body).  It does mean that ultimately we are affected by spiritual things.  Consider the following.

  • Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) -- {4} But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
  • John 6:63 (NKJV) -- {63} It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
  • Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV) -- {12} For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The word of God is more than just guidelines to live by.  They are alive and they give life.  We therefore need to have the word of God permeate our very being so that we would live and enjoy good health.

How much time do you spend getting the word of God into your spirit (heart)?  How often do you read and meditate on the word of God?  How often do you pray to effect change in your life?  We are typically too busy to spend time on such intangibles.  However, we really need to be healthy spiritual if we want to be healthy physically and mentally.

I should point out that spirituality is not necessarily a Christian concept though I am presenting it from a Christian perspective.  Spirituality may include such things as positive confessions and even New Age philosophies.  I am in no way condoning such things as a means of good health.  The Bible declares that the way to live healthy is to have a genuine relationship with God and to live by His word.  We can only truly live by his word, apart from mental assent, by getting his word into our very hearts.

 

Developing a Spiritual Lifestyle

Here are some things that you can do to help you develop a spiritual lifestyle.

  1. Regularly participate in church worship
  2. Read and meditate on God’s word (the Bible scriptures)
  3. Pray regularly
  4. Get help from others (intercessory prayer)
  5. Spend time with God

 

Prayer – The Spiritual Aspects of Healing and Good Health

You may be surprised to find that prayer has been shown to significantly affect healing and doctors don’t know why.  It has been shown through clinical experiments that prayer really does affect our ability to heal and be well.  It has also been shown that even intercessory prayer (remote prayer) is just as affective as and perhaps even more affective than praying for yourself.  Experiments showed that prayer positively affected:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Wounds
  3. Heart attacks
  4. Headaches
  5. Anxiety

Now I should qualify what I mean by prayer here.  Prayer here is not the mere repetition of words (see Matthew 6:7).  The important thing about prayer in this context is that it comes from the heart.  Prayer is an expression or release of that which is already in your heart.  Consider the following scripture as an example.

Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV) -- {22} So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. {23} For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. {24} Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Prayer is not merely to ask, but it is also to believe in the heart.  So you believe first and then you pray what you believe.  I must say that it is also to pray even if you have doubts if you address those doubts.  Consider the following scripture.

Mark 9:23-24 (NKJV) -- {23} Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” {24} Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Again the important thing to remember about prayer is that it must come from your heart to be genuine and therefore to effect any change in regards to health.  That which comes merely from the head was not shown to effect spiritual healing.  This brings to mind two types of belief that I would like to note here just for the sake of distinction.

  1. Mental Assent (Extrinsic belief) – It is a belief that is solely intellectual and is not in one’s heart.  Extrinsic belief may include mechanical recitation of a prayer or conviction in a church setting, or mere membership in a particular church.  Your heart is simply not in it in mental assent or extrinsic belief.
  2. True faith (intrinsic belief) – Here you believe in your heart.  The conviction is in your heart and a part of your very being and not just something that is in your head.  You aren’t merely intellectually convinced of something, but rather you are convinced to the depth of your heart.  I should point out that this does not necessarily make such belief true.  It is possible to accept and take to heart a particular false teaching for example.  The distinction here from mental assent is that the belief has reached your heart or some would say your soul.

 

The Effectiveness of Prayer

It has been shown that prayer is very effective in regards to health.  Of course we Christians know that prayer is effective in all aspects of our lives, but our context here is health.  Let me quote an excerpt that I found in an article from www.holistic-online.com.  The reason that I want to quote this is because my naturopathic doctor and I talked about this very thing.

“According to Koenig of Duke University, "when prayer uplifts or calms, it inhibits cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine - hormones that flow out of the adrenal glands in response to stress. These fight-or-flight chemicals, released over time can compromise the immune system, upping the odds of developing any number of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, peptic ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disorder (IBS)." Many experts feel that the immune system is strengthened and nourished by a sense of peace, which can be transferred from one individual to another or used inwardly. Of course, the ancient stories of the Bible and seminal works of Eastern religions link healing with faith. So, it is reasonable to assume that something such as prayer that provides comfort and peace would influence the propensity for you to get disease or how you recover from a disease.

Recent scientific investigation shows that prayer can be used as an alternative therapy as successfully as meditation, exercise, or herbalism. A study of 91,000 people in rural Maryland showed that weekly church attendees had 50 percent fewer deaths from heart disease than non-churchgoers and 53 percent fewer suicides. Churchgoers have lower blood pressure levels than nonbelievers, even after smoking and other known risk factors are taken into consideration.

Many doctors believe that if they prayed with their patients before and after surgery or before administering a course of powerful drugs, this treatment might assist in the patient's recovery. Thirty medical schools in America are now offering courses in faith and medicine.”   (From http://1stholistic.com/Prayer/hol_prayer_proof.htm)

You see that prayer is much more influential than we might think.  We don’t understand why it works, but then again we cannot say that we completely understand the Kingdom of God and how it operates.  Consider the following.

Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV) -- {6} Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. {8} Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

That is beautiful and very encouraging.  Paul basically said to pray Instead of worrying and being stressed out.  I should also point out that the prayer and underlying belief or faith has to be genuine.  We have to be well above mental assent and operating in real true faith (intrinsic belief) in order for prayer to effect change.  Paul then goes on to tell us what to meditate on.  We tend to focus and think about the wrong things anyway.

Some of us are so intent on seeing the problem that we never look for the solution.  It really annoys me when a person would rather give a number of reasons why he or she can’t do something or why a certain thing won’t happen instead of trying to come up with a solution of how he or she can do it or how a certain thing would happen.

Prayer and Our Perspective of God

Another important point about prayer is that our perspective of God is very important.  This is consistent with our discussion about the types of beliefs.  If we think of God as a mean task master then we are less likely to experience the benefits of prayer.  If we see God as our heavenly Father then we are more likely to experience the benefits of prayer.

William Carr Peel, in his book, ‘What God Does When Men Pray’, cites the following distorted approaches to prayer (from article on www.holistic-online.com.  My comments are added):

  • The Spare Tire Approach – Use prayer for emergency needs. You pray when you are in trouble.   I am sure that you are familiar with this approach.  We tend to think of God as the grocery store in that we only go to him when we want or need something.  It is as if God’s only purpose is to meet our needs.
  • The Stained Glass Approach – The prayer requires certain "right" formulas and especially "Thee" and "Thou" of Elizabethan English.  This is when we abide by man-made protocols in regards to prayer instead of simply praying from the heart.
  • The Blue Book Approach – God is perceived as similar to a college professor who grades on the number of pages you fill. The more words, the more apt God is to respond.  See Matthew 6:7-8.
  • The Monte Hall Approach – "God, let’s make a deal. If you answer my prayer and give me this, I will do this (pay so much to church, donate such and such to church, etc.).  This approach could also be reversed.  Some believe that if they do a certain thing then God will do his part.  You deal based on your conditions.
  • The Aladdin’s Lamp Approach – The God is seen as a celestial genie. Rub Him the right way, and He’ll grant your wish.
  • The Wrestling Match Approach – God is forcefully reminded of His promises and obligations.  We see a lot of this in the Word of Faith movement where people confess the promises of God in an effort to remind God of what He.  God then has to do it.

 

Reality Check

Sometimes prayers do not work.  Actually, I should say that sometimes prayers don’t produce the result that we are looking for.  God is sovereign and He does what He wants.  Sometimes all of our efforts fail to produce the desired healing.  We don’t know why, but it just happens that way.

Sometimes the healing that occurs is the peace that accompanies the sickness or even unto death.  I think of John Huss (Jan Hus) who was martyred in the 15th century (July 6, 1415).  I think of the Apostles Paul and Peter.  I think of the countless Christians that were killed for their faith.  Why didn’t God rescue them?  Why didn’t Paul pray for his freedom?  Perhaps he did, but it surely didn’t happen.  We don’t understand these things, but we do know that God our heavenly Father is a just God.  It is said for example that John Huss sang hymns as he burned at the stake.  He had peace though he died.

It is important to first have a heart faith in God.  We must believe in God and trust him no matter what.   We must live according to his ways, which is spiritual.

 

Conclusion

Spiritual Christian living is very important.  It is the part of life that we truly neglect the most.  We neglect to get the word of God in us.  We neglect to spend time in prayer and fellowship with the Lord.  We neglect to know God’s word.  We therefore neglect true healthy living, both spirit and body.

Many people suffer today because they are ignorant of God and his ways.  Of course we are also ignorant of specific things such as health for example.  We rely totally on medical science, which has not offered a methodology for healing.  We are cured of our symptoms for the most part, but we still do not know why we are sick. 

This in now way is meant to imply that we should do away with medical science or that medical science is useless.  No.  Medical science is just that, namely a science.  We should not look to science as having the answer to all things in our universe.  Medical science only gives us one aspect of things physical.  Spirituality (from the Christian perspective) provides us with a perspective from a spiritual context.  Being totally spiritual would not benefit us just as being totally physical would not benefit us.  However, we can strive to have a balance of both body and spirit and not to forget the mind.

We are triune human beings so we should be healthy in mind, body, and spirit.  The only way that we can do this is if we educate ourselves about these things.  We have to feed the mind just as we feed the body.  We have to feed the spirit just as we feed the mind.  We can effect change in our lives by educating ourselves to God’s ways even from the general revelation that he has given us and the knowledge that he has given to people (physics, medicine, etc.)

Let’s be healthier.  Let’s be more spiritual (godly).  Remember that I am not talking merely about general spirituality because that is not necessarily Christian.  The context of spirituality in this discussion is Christianity.  Remember that because you will find plenty of information on spirituality on the Internet and in book stores.  Our context is Christian not general spirituality, which is independent of religion or faith.

1 Corinthians 2:13-14 (NKJV) -- {13} These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. {14} But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Romans 8:6 (NKJV) -- {6} For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Spirituality then leads to healthy living.  We can do what we can to be healthy as we abide by God’s way.  The Christian perspective of healing is to be connected to God.  Have a relationship with God and allow the healing power to flow into you and effect healing according to God’s will.  We can only do this if we are connected.  You shouldn’t expect a lamp to produce light if it isn’t connected to some type of power source.  Likewise, we should expect God’s healing power to flow into us if we are not connected.  We do thank God that He doesn’t deal with us according to how we deal with him and sometimes healing may come because of the prayers of others or just because God willed it.

The point here is that we should be connected to God to truly live and to live healthy.  We have to be healthy in body and spirit to be completely whole.  Amen.

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